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New night, same problems haunt Clippers in loss to Hornets

Mar 22, 2012, 11:48 PM EDT

Blake Griffin AP

Three games in three nights. Three losses. Each seemingly uglier than the last.

Right now, the Clippers are not a good basketball team, and coach Vinny Del Negro could pay the price for that.

A night after Del Negro’s postgame tirade at his team after it was blown out by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers came out with a new energy in New Orleans on Thursday but were haunted by the same old problems — they don’t defend well (the Hornets shot 57.6 percent), they foul too much (the Hornets had 34 free throws) and when Chris Paul and the offense can’t bail them out they struggle.

The Clippers’ offense failed them late with 11 fourth-quarter points and the New Orleans Hornets won 97-90.

What has to turn the stomach of Clippers fans — and likely Clippers management — is how the less talented Hornets played with far more fire and passion. That is a feisty team that coach Monty Williams has executing to its strengths — Jarrett Jack (17 points, 9 assists) and Chris Kaman (20 points, 10 rebounds).

The feistiness got a little out of hand in the fourth quarter when Jason Smith put a full on body check on Blake Griffin as the Clippers star went up for a layup. Four Clippers including DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul ran over to Smith (who went back by the stands, which had to make David Stern queasy) but cooler heads prevailed.

Smith was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul and you can bet a multi-game suspension is coming. This hit was more reminiscent of something the Saints got in trouble for than the Hornets.

But while that put a new fire under the Clippers, it didn’t solve their execution problems.

Which may well tie into a report that Del Negro has lost the locker room. From Chris Broussard of ESPN:

Most of the players, according to sources, believe it’s time for a change. They cite the uncertainty of Del Negro’s rotation as a major problem…

Beyond that, players have complained that Del Negro’s offensive and defensive schemes are too basic and predictable and they say he plays favorites when handing out criticism, according to the sources. They say while he refuses to harshly criticize stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, he does not hold back in jumping on the team’s lesser players.

“That’s a big problem,” one player said. “The best coaches jump on whoever deserves it, no matter who it is.”

Del Negro’s job changed when the Chris Paul trade happened before the season — they instantly went from a young team that Del Negro was supposed to help grow to a contender. There were questions in Clipper camp then if he was the right coach for that job, but he was going to be given a chance. He was going to get the season (his contract has a team option for next season).

“Vinny has lost the team,” one source said. “They don’t want to play hard for him.”

Even when they do, their flaws and execution betray them.

Something needs to change with the Clippers. They are 7-12 in their last 19 games and while they are still going to make the playoffs in the West they are fast becoming the team everyone hopes to draw.

It’s hard to see how that changes without a major shakeup.

  1. jmclarkent - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    I wonder if players would be so quick to quit if NBA contracts weren’t fully guaranteed…

  2. redstar504 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:49 AM

    That was an amazing game great energy in the crowd and more importantly the Hornets got a win. New Orleans needed this, it has been a very rough week here for the sporting populace.

    I also loved Coach Monty Williams running all the way over to behind the backboard to break up a potential fight between Jason Smith and CP3 that would have happened right in front of the first row of seats.

    The more I watch Coach Williams the more obvious it becomes this guy is a special coach. I hope and pray the new owners don’t chunk him just to bring in “their” guy, any coach that can have a team as depleted as the Hornets are and with only 12 wins is a great coach. They play hard for him every night.

    On a side note shame on the New Orleans Arena staff they got a little excited and pulled the rip cord on the confetti before the game was even won. I guess when you don’t win often they get out of practice.

    It was also good to see CP3 back in NOLA. I wish he were still a Hornet.

  3. atmanne - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    “They are 7-12 in their last 19 games and while they are still going to make the playoffs in the West…”

    You sure about that? They’ve been a sub-.500 team for two months now and they’re a game away from the 9 seed. Not to mention, they spend most of April on the road.

  4. velascochad - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:43 AM

    i’ll choose a potato over del negro to coach my team. ANY day.

  5. sellahh - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    What kind of fight between CP3 and Smith could you possibly be talking about? CP3 is an inmature midget and he wanted none, just to bark some like he loves to.

    • adzs93 - Mar 23, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      Took the words out of my mouth (Kind of lool) Fact was CP3 was backing off with his finger pointed; Not someone who seemed like they wanted a fight…

  6. hauts81 - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:55 AM

    Nice dive by Griffin.

  7. glink123 - Mar 23, 2012 at 5:35 AM

    Vinny. lol. He should’ve never been given the Bulls coaching job. Then “The Donald” hires him. All of this is typical VDN.

  8. donfelder440 - Mar 23, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    VDN seems like not a very good coach. But Blake Griffin is overrated beyond all belief because of his dunking ability. And CP3 is nothing great anymore, either. It will be amusing to watch him bolt for his next big contract, which will undoubtedly end up being an albatross around his future team’s neck.

    • chargerdillon - Mar 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      Dude….you need to take a step back and look at what you’re writing. Blake Griffin is not overrated he’s one of the most powerful players at his position, and the fact he can jump and dunk so high should not be taken as a slight, he plays to his strengths, thats what he’s supposed to do.

      More importantly CP3 is one of the best PG’s in the game today. If he were on the Lakers right now, you’d be calling them the favorite to play in the Finals this year.

      With just a minor bump at PG the Lakers just became a much better team, if they had this “nothing great” CP3 you speak of, they would be blowing out the West in dominant fashion.

      And for all you idiots bashing VDN. VDN is a toughnosed coach who makes his players work and hustle 24/7. He was brought in to coach to mold his players in much the same way he played the game. In order to do that he has to have backing from ownership to treat this guys with a heavy hand and when players dont see ownership doing that, they waffle on his coaching.

      I’m the biggest Clipper hater there is, but damn there’s some stupid comments being made about 2 of the very best in the NBA

      • donfelder440 - Mar 23, 2012 at 11:41 AM

        Blake Griffin is not an elite superstar. CP3 was at one point. What don’t you get?

        Blake is a pretty good player whose prestige has been elevated beyond his abilities and impact because of his showman dunks. He is not dominating the league and he is not carrying his team on his back the way true elite players do.

  9. cakemixa - Mar 23, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    What does Griffin do besides dunk and flop? Most one-dimensional “star” in NBA history?

  10. chiadam - Mar 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Wait, you mean the Clippers’ front office and horrific owner are surprised that VDN can’t manage a rotation? Anyone here in Chicago could have told you that. He also can’t draw up plays during a timeout. Oh, and he normally chose to NOT play D Rose (ROY, All-Star and league MVP) during the fourth quarter. He’s a horrendous coach.

  11. palakerfan - Mar 23, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Oh look, the early season Western darling Clippers got passed by the old guys from across town, and now they’re almost out of the playoffs entirely. The long season tends to sort itself out.

  12. philwauke - Mar 23, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Why is it wherever Chris Paul goes coaches seem to lose their jobs?

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